How Does Santa fit into a Christian Christmas?

Christian and non-Christian alike have heard of him. As children, we imagined the sleigh, decorated with gold and jewels. Small pointy-eared people stuffed dolls, train sets, trucks, and other treats into a bottomless red bag. The sleigh driver—a plump, kindly man sporting white hair and a red outfit, sat at the ready to lead his reindeer team across the night sky in search of deserving girls and boys. I remember not being able to sleep on Christmas Eve, my body filled with nervous energy as I waited for Santa Claus to arrive.

The aforementioned images have been a tradition in America for the last two centuries, even in Christian homes. Today, we have to ask ourselves: does Santa Claus have a place in Christian celebrations during the Christmas season? The modern Santa Claus was loosely based on an actual person who possessed qualities every Christian should imitate.

The name of St. Nicholas has been used interchangeably with that of Santa Claus but they are not the same. Saint Nicholas was born in the third century A.D. He came from a Christian home and believed in the teachings of Jesus Christ. He used his vast resources to help those in need, thus fulfilling Christ’s mission. Stories grew from his extraordinary deeds, each more fanciful than the one before. Once Europeans colonized America, the stories evolved into tales to entertain children and our version of the Santa Claus legend began.

As Christian individuals, we have a responsibility to represent Christ in all aspects of our lives. What greater opportunity exists to show the world God’s love than during the celebration of Christ’s birth? God sent His only Son into the world to give mankind a second chance that we did not deserve. Our children deserve the truth. Make-believe stories are fun, but when they appear to be more popular than the truth, they can mislead our children.

The Santa Claus legend must be replaced with the facts. Saint Nicholas existed and he lived his life in service to the Savior whose birth we celebrate during the Christmas season. That’s the truth. At Christmas, nothing should overshadow the birth of Christ, God’s ultimate gift.

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